Christ’s light

In Paul Turner's Blog by Paul Turner

Q: I have a concern about lighting a Christ’s light (the 5th candle) during Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. Where is it coming from in our liturgy or tradition talks about it.  Would you help me to understand it? 

I think sometimes we abuse our liturgy too much and miss the whole meaning of Christmas, please forgive me if I am wrong.


God bless you for your love of the liturgy and search for doing things the right way. Here’s a previous blog post: .

In all the Catholic liturgical books, the only one I recall referring to the Advent wreath is the Book of Blessings, which describes a wreath as “Customarily” having “four candles” (1510). The order of blessing comes from the United States because the Latin typical edition of the Book of Blessings has no such chapter pertaining to an Advent wreath. There is no universal liturgical law.

Similarly, there is a mention in the Vatican’s Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy: Principles and Guidelines. It says, “The Advent wreath, with the progressive lighting of its four candles, Sunday after Sunday, until the Solemnity of Christmas, is a recollection of the various stages of salvation history prior to Christ’s coming and a symbol of the prophetic light gradually illuminating the long night prior to the rising of the Sun of justice (cf. Ml 3,20; Lk 1,78)” (98). So it knows the tradition that none of its candles is lighted once Christmas arrives.

A fifth candle, always white, appears in some wreaths in churches of various Christian denominations. And purveyors of religious articles sell both four- and five-candle Advent wreath packages.

We’re in the realm of popular piety more than liturgical tradition, so there is bound to be more variation in the customs. No parish is obliged to have an Advent wreath. It is all a question of tradition and devotion.
Catholics love candles, so I can understand the desire to let the Advent candles burn into the Christmas season if they are “completed” with a “Christ candle,” showing that the one whom the growing light of the wreath anticipated has indeed come among us. Such a custom would not be contrary to Catholic belief. It’s just a bit outside the tradition, and the liturgical books are silent about it.

In general, I say with regard to the rubrics, “Do what it says. Don’t do what it doesn’t say.” This custom dwells so much in the realm of popular devotion that I think the liturgy can tolerate it without requiring it.